Independence Co. to disperse first checks from fire sales tax - KAIT Jonesboro, AR - Region 8 News, weather, sports

Independence Co. to disperse first checks from fire sales tax

INDEPENDENCE COUNTY, AR (KAIT) – Voters in Independence County approved a half-cent sales tax in 2012 to benefit all the local fire departments.

The county began collecting revenue on the sales tax this month and mailed out the first checks Friday, prompting the fire chiefs to begin planning how to spend their first payments.

The fire chief for Pleasant Plains Area Volunteer Fire Department, Stacey Caplener, says the money will allow his department and others to modernize. He plans to use the money to replace outdated equipment and make changes to better protect the people in the area.

"We've got so many things we need, and it's going to take time to get all those things we need," Caplener said.

He campaigned hard last year to get the sales tax approved in Independence County.

"We went door-to-door in our fire districts and thanked the people of Independence County for allowing us to look in the future and bring this county's fire service into the millennium," Caplener said.

The sales tax generated $198,714.89 in June alone, according to the Independence County Treasurer's Office. That means the following departments should receive a check next week worth $12,717.75: Batesville, Bethesda, Charlotte, Cord, Cushman, Desha, Floral, Northside, Newark, Oil Trough, Pleasant Plains, Ruddell Hill, Southside, Sulphur Rock and Union Hill-Thida.

Even though they are located outside Independence County, the fire departments in Cave City and Saffell will also receive funds for responding to fires within the county, too. Cave City will receive a check for $3,179.42, while the Saffell gets $794.86 this month.

"We're all going to camp out at the post office and get it, I guess," Caplener said about the checks, laughing.

He plans to use the first payment to Pleasant Plains to help finish building the department's new tanker truck. Some money will also be set aside so that the firefighter can get new turnout gear.

"Ours is nine years old now," Caplener said. "It gets dry-rotted after wash after wash and then the fire retardant comes out of it, so we need to replace the turnouts right now."

Future payments will help the department finish expanding the fire station, too.

"We're in a three-bay building here and we've got four trucks, so we need room," Caplener said.

The new revenue may also allow the department to man its fire station year-round, something it's been unable to do before now.

"We're going to be good stewards of this money," Caplener said. "We appreciate the county people trusting us enough to do this because we will do it right."

With this new revenue coming continually each month, Pleasant Plains has decided to eliminate its annual fire dues. People will no longer have to pay $35 each year for fire service and protection.

Caplener says his town is not the only one that has instituted this change. He says several have now done away with their fire dues as well.

The fire sales tax will remain temporarily on the books as a half-cent for the next five years, but will then permanently drop to a quarter-cent after that time.

Copyright 2013 KAIT. All rights reserved.

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